How closely are diet and health related?
- A recent study from from researches at Benedictine University in Illinois and Arizona State University found that vegetarians generally report better mood than omnivores (Link).
- According to the US National Cancer Institute, people whose diets are rich in plant foods such as fruits and vegetables have a lower risk of getting many different types of cancer (Link).
- A study by National Geographic found that the longest living Americans are members of the 7th Day Adventist Church in California - a church which promotes vegetarianism (Link).
The above studies indicate that our diets should be filled with fresh fruits and vegetables. But eating a diet consisting of mostly natural foods can feel overwhelming. A "diet overhaul" works for some people, but setting the bar too high can also lead to serious discouragement. To avoid this discouragement, I encourage you to try following the below steps, in order and at your own pace!
Level 1 - Replace all soda (including diet), energy drinks and other artificial drinks with healthier drinks (especially water). Also try to limit alcoholic consumption to a glass of red wine per day (max).
Soda and energy drinks are processed, artificial and they sap nutrients in our bodies. Conversely, water, fresh juice and herbal teas benefit our health and increase our energy levels naturally. Some examples of healthier water, fresh juices, herbal teas, kombucha tea, green tea, organic nut milks, etc.
Level 2 - Start taking a high quality multivitamin (available at your local health store). If that is too expensive, start out with an affordable mainstream or generic brand.
It is very difficult to get all of our vitamins from food alone. For example, sufficient Vitamin D comes from about 15 minutes of direct sunlight every other day. Also, B12 comes primarily from animal products (meat, eggs or dairy) or unwashed, wild produce (grass eating animals get enough B12 this way). A good multivitamin will contain both of these essential vitamins plus many others. Some great multivitamin brands are Megafood, New Chapter and NOW:
Click Here for additional stress-busting vitamins and supplements!
Level 3 - Cut back on processed foods (candy, cookies, cake, donuts, etc.), fake sugars , artificial chemicals, preservatives and stimulants (tobacco, caffeine, alcohol, etc.).
Aspartame has been linked with cancer (Link). Monosodium Glutamate poisons your cells (Link). Processed sugars dissolve essential B vitamins (Link). Rather, humans are specifically designed to eat natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, seeds and nuts.
Level 4 - Eat a vegetarian (or vegan) breakfast.
cereal with nut milk or organic milk
Many Americans, simply out of habit, eat animal products at every meal. Yet if we allow our first meal to be free of meat, we can move toward the benefits a plant-based diet. A vegetarian breakfast might include whole grain toast with peanut butter, a fruit smoothie, cereal or oatmeal with organic milk or soy, rice, almond or coconut milk (or many other options).
Level 5 - Also eat a vegetarian (or vegan) lunch.
If our diets are overflowing with burgers, hot dogs and greasy pizza, this can cause us to become tired from constantly digesting such heavy foods. Rather, try making either your lunch or dinner meal (whichever is easier) your 2nd vegetarian (or vegan) meal every day. This will help ensure that we are including the delicious fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and grains that our bodies need.
photo By bamalibrarylady on flickr.com
photo by CheshireCat@TO on flickr.com
Level 7 - Make your vegetarian breakfast "High Raw".
photo by wrestlingentropy on flickr.com
A "High Raw" meal consists of at least 75% fresh and uncooked fruits and vegetables. Since raw foods are unprocessed, they are food "as nature intended". One great way of eating more raw foods is by starting every day with a green smoothie. Some other great breakfast options are fresh juice and fresh fruit.